Banned Books Week

Updated: October 3, 2022

Over the centuries, various forms of expression have been banned or destroyed, and their creators have been censored, imprisoned, tortured, killed, exiled. It is the mission and responsibility of libraries to present multifarious viewpoints, and this is why the American Library Association joins other organizations to support Banned Books Week. “We all know nations that can be identified by the flight of writers from their shores. These are regimes whose fear of unmonitored writing is justified because truth is trouble...Therefore, the historical suppression of writers is the earliest harbinger of the steady peeling away of additional rights and liberties that will follow.” Burn This Book—Toni Morrison

120 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature
Karolides, Nicholas J.
Call Number: 098.1 K18-1 2011

Censored books fall into four subject areas: political, religious, sexual, and social. This book traces the censorship histories of 120 books from around the world, providing summaries of the books and reasons for them being censored.

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir
Ai, Weiwei
Call Number: 709.51 A288-9

Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most famous and infamous internationally known artists. On April 3, 2011, as he was about to fly out of Beijing's Capital Airport, he states, " ...a swarm of plainclothes police descended on me, and for the next eighty-one days I disappeared into a black hole." The title of the book is part of a poem written by his father, Ai Qing, who was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution in China. This book is a memoir about his father, himself, his country, and the necessity for freedom of expression everywhere in the world.

Ai Weiwei's Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009
Ai, Weiwei.
Call Number: 709.51 A288-1

For his outspoken criticism of modern China, contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei was followed, beaten, put in prison, and finally was able to leave his homeland and now lives in Berlin.

The Annotated Prison Writings of Oscar Wilde
Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900,
Call Number: 828 W672-20

Oscar Wilde was sentenced to hard labor in prison for "gross indecency" with other men, aka homosexual acts, but jail did not prevent Wilde from writing.

The Bastard of Istanbul
Shafak, Elif

In 2006 Shafak was tried and acquitted for “insulting Turkishness” because one of the characters in this novel refers to the massacre of Armenians, during World War I, as genocide. Shafak no longer lives in Turkey and has stated that, “Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists.”

Burning the books : a history of the deliberate destruction of knowledge
Ovenden, Richard
Call Number: 323.445 O96

A compelling history of how written knowledge has been collected and maintained in libraries, going back millennia, and the destructive forces that have tried to subvert, censor or destroy those materials.

Project Censored
Call Number: 071.01 J54

The title of a series of books, published yearly, that documents, “News that didn’t make the news—and why. The top censored stories and media analysis. Press freedoms on a ‘post-truth’ world."

Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year
Levi, Carlo, 1902-1975.
Call Number: 945.77 L664 1963

Carlo Levi was an Italian artist, writer and doctor, and an anti-fascist before and during World War II.  He was charged and sent to internal exile in the small town of Eboli.

Chroniques: Selected Columns, 2010-2016
Daoud, Kamel
Call Number: 965 D211

Daoud is a journalist whose award-winning novel, The Meursault Investigation, is a modern response to Albert Camus’ The Stranger. For many years he has written for Le quotidien d’Oran. His questioning of traditional Islam and praise of the West brought forth condemnation by other journalists, and a fatwa (death threat) by a Salafist Imam.

Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality
Brown-Nagin, Tomiko
Call Number: 347.092 M919Br

Among the many “firsts” in the life of Constance Baker Motley, she was the first Black woman appointed as a federal judge and the first Black woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout her life, she fought for equality and justice for all and knew that inequality of any type was a barrier to freedom of expression

The Culture of Lies: Antipolitical Essays
Ugresic, Dubravka
Call Number: 943.94 U27

Ugresic is originally from Croatia, and is a journalist who has written critically about the most recent Balkan War that tore apart Yugoslavia. For her questioning and criticism, her work has been censored, and she has been continuously threated with violence and death.


Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical
Ceplair, Larry,
Call Number: 812 T867Ce

Dalton Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten who opposed and refused to answer questions before HUAC. He lived in exile but continued to be a ghostwriter for Hollywood. In 1993, he received his long overdue Academy Award for The Brave One, and later a posthumous Academy Award for Roman Holiday, 1953.

Dangerous Ideas: A Brief History of Censorship in the West, From the Ancients to Fake News
Berkowitz, Eric
Call Number: 323.445 B513

When freedom of speech is restricted, then freedom of thought and freedom of expression are in peril, which includes the written word. Historian Eric Berkowitz examines the history of censoring speech and how it has impacted people’s lives over the centuries.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison: A Biography
Marty, Martin E., 1928-
Call Number: 284.1092 B714Mart

Lutheran pastor and theologian who was imprisoned for two years and executed by the Nazis for his role in the plot to kill Hitler.

First to Fall: Elijah Lovejoy and the Fight for a Free Press in the Age of Slavery
Ellingwood, Ken
Call Number: 071.092 L897El

Elijah Lovejoy was a Presbyterian minister, newspaper editor, and temperance crusader. Prior to the Civil War he became a staunch abolitionist, and as the owner of two newspapers his offices and printing presses were vandalized. While guarding a new press in a warehouse he was killed by an angry mob.

Free the Press: The Death of American Journalism and How to Revive It
Karem, Brian J.
Call Number: 071.01 K18

Veteran reporter Brian J. Karem examines the challenges facing journalists (in print, television and social media) in how to provide clear information about what takes place in government. He offers workable solutions to how this can be accomplished.

Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle that Changed a Nation
Rieder, Jonathan
Call Number: 323.4092 K53Ri-1

Baptist minister, civil rights and nonviolent activist, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for unlawful political protests against racial segregation. On April 16, 1963, he wrote an open letter to the world, stating there is a moral obligation to break unjust laws, in nonviolent ways, instead of waiting forever for justice to come through the legal system.

Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon
Van Hensbergen, Gijs.
Call Number: 759.64 P586Van

In 1937 Picasso created a huge mural painting (11’ 5” by 25’ 6”) in shades of gray, black and white to protest the Nazi German and Italian bombings of Guernica, a village in Basque Spain. The painting was a political and humanitarian protest, and its journey to different countries became a protest in itself. There are two reputed comments made by Picasso, one in response to being shown a photograph of the painting by a German officer, who said, “Did you do that?” Picasso responded, “No, you did.” In response to being asked about his political views, Picasso pointed to the large mural.

The GULAG Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, I-II
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isaevich, 1918-2008.
Call Number: 365.947 S692 v.1-2

In 1945, fighting in East Prussia, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was arrested and sentenced to prison for anti-Soviet propaganda for criticising Stalin’s war plans and the need for a new regime.  He spent 8 eight years in prisons and labor camps, but continued to write.

Hollywood Exile: Or How I Learned to Love the Blacklist: A Memoir
Gordon, Bernard, 1918-2007.
Call Number: 791.92 G662

Bernard Gordon was a blacklisted writer/producer who moved to Europe, but continued to be a ghostwriter for many major motion pictures made in Hollywood.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood up for Education and Changed the World
Yousafzai, Malala
Call Number: 370.95491 Y82-1

Learn the story of the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever, who risked her life to fight for the rights of girls in Pakistan to attend school. Malala was a young girl who would not be denied an education, despite being threatened by the Taliban, who shot her in the head. She lives in exile and continues to speak out for justice and human rights. In 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

I am Spartacus!: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist
Douglas, Kirk, 1916-
Call Number: 791.1 S737Do

Kirk Douglas provides the tumultuous backstory to the making of the film Spartacus, begun during the Hollywood blacklist. The film was based on the work of two writers, Howard Fast and Dalton Trumbo, who were jailed for refusing to testify before HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee).

I will never see the world again : the memoir of an imprisoned writer
Altan, Ahmet,
Call Number: 079.092 A465

Turkish journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan was sentenced to life in prison, accused of having helped plot a 2016 coup d'état in Turkey. Altan recognizes his physical life of freedom is over, but the life of his mind is free, and that is what he writes about.

Journalism, Satire, and Censorship in Mexico
Call Number: 079.72 J865

Since 2000 over 150 journalists have been murdered in Mexico. This collection of essays are by journalists, scholars, political cartoonists and others who examine if it is possible to have true freedom of the press and freedom of speech in a country that has been dominated by political terrorism and drug cartels. Fear of violence and death has created self-censorship by many writers and artists.

Justice in Plain Sight: How a Small-Town Newspaper and its Unlikely Lawyer Opened America's Courtrooms
Bernstein, Dan
Call Number: 071 P935Be

Censorship can take place anywhere and from anyone. In the 1980s, the Press-Enterprise, a hometown newspaper in Riverside, California, took two cases to the U.S. Supreme Court. The demand was that all court proceedings be open to the public and the press. Their successes have made it possible for, “...the public to witness jury selection and preliminary hearings.”


The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State
Murad, Nadia
Call Number: 323.4092 M972

The Nobel Peace Prize, 2018. This prize was shared with Dr. Denis Mukwege, "for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict." Nadia Murad is a member of the Yazidi community who lived in Kocho, northern Iraq. She and her family lived a peaceful rural life with other families until their village was caught in the crosshairs of ISIS in 2014. People were killed and Nadia was abducted, beaten, tortured, repeatedly raped, and became part of the ISIS slave trade. She escaped and this is her story. Even though she is free, ISIS has continued to issue death threats because Nadia continues to speak out.

Letters to Olga: June 1979-September 1982
Havel, Vaclav.
Call Number: 891.862 H384Ha

Czech dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel was sentenced to three years in prison for political dissent and human rights activities. He was permitted to write one letter a week to his wife. He later became President of Czechoslovakia, and of the Czech Republic.

Like a Sword Wound
Altan, Ahmet

Ahmet Altan is a journalist and novelist who has been sentenced to life in prison in Turkey. This is volume 1 of his Ottoman Quartet, a series of novels about the last fifty years of the Ottoman Empire.

My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran
Esfandiari, Haleh
Call Number: 365.955 I78

In 2006 while visiting her mother in Tehran, Iran, the American Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program, Haleh Esfandiari was suddenly imprisoned and interrogated for nearly eight months. For part of that time she was in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison where focus, self-discipline and determination were attributes that sustained her through a living nightmare in a country that once had been her home.

No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems
Liu, Xiaobo, 1955-2017.
Call Number: 895.18 L7825

Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese writer (2008-2017), literary critic and human rights activist, who was tried and imprisoned. In 2010 he was awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
Galeano, Eduardo
Call Number: 330.98 G152 1997

Originally from Uruguay, Eduardo Galeano was a journalist during the 1960s, writing about politics and culture. Following a military coup In 1973 he went to Argentina, and three years later fled to Spain because of Argentina’s repressive military dictatorship which confiscated and censored his writing. In Spain he wrote this book, which was censored in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.


The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela
Mandela, Nelson, 1918-2013,
Call Number: 323.4092 M271-8

Arrested in 1962 for anti-apartheid activities in South Africa, Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison. He was the first democratically elected president of South Africa, 1994-1999, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number
Timerman, Jacobo, 1923-1999.
Call Number: 365.982 T583

During the 1970s Argentina was run by a right-wing military regime. Newspaper publisher Jacobo Timerman documents his arrest, torture, and jailing.

Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times
Nafisi, Azar
Call Number: 809 N146

Literature plays a major role in freedom of expression. Azar Nafisi, professor, and writer, presents her thoughts in a series of letters to her late father, who was the Mayor of Tehran. In examining the books of selected writers, she urges us to examine the motivations of those who stand in the way of freedom of expression. At the same time, she cautions us not to replicate the behavior of those who seek to suppress this precious freedom.

The Republic of False Truths
Aswānī, ʻAlāʼ

The books of renowned Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany have been translated into 30 languages and published in more than 100 countries all over the world. However, his books have been banned in Egypt and a great many places in the Arab world. This novel is a satiric look at a modern repressive government that is thrown into turmoil when a revolution takes place.

The Satanic Verses
Rushdie, Salman

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie was published in 1988. The title refers to a group of verses in the Quran about three pagan Mecca goddesses. At the time, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa that ordered Muslims to kill Rushdie, and Rushdie went into hiding and was under constant protection. In August, 2022, while at a public reading, he was attacked with a knife.

Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller
Wassef, Nadia
Call Number: 085.462 W321

Starting an independent bookstore is no easy task, but doing so in modern Egypt had more than the usual obstacles, especially one opened by three women who had no business degrees or business plans but had a lot of moxie and drive. This all began in 2002, and business is thriving. As told by the chief instigator, Nadia Wassef, this book sparkles with vitality, humor, candor, and joy.

The Story of the Banned Book: Naguib Mahfouz's Children of the Alley
Shuʻayr, Muḥammad
Call Number: 892.73 N214Sh

Since it was first published in Egypt in 1959, Naguib Mahfouz's novel <em>Children of the Alley</em> has been controversial: banned; allowed to be sold; sold under the counter; pirated; illegally reprinted, and the author’s life was threatened. This book examines that history and opens “... a window onto some of the fiercest debates around culture and religion to have taken place in Egyptian society over the past half-century.”

Joyce, James
Call Number: Ed.q

2022 marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of this novel by James Joyce. Since its first publication it has been burned and banned. All of this was based on charges of obscenity.

Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran
Ebadi, Shirin
Call Number: 349.092 I12-1

Iranian lawyer, judge and human rights activist, was threatened, jailed, and suspended from practicing law. In exile from Iran, Shirin Ebadi lives in the United Kingdom, and in 2003 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She continues to openly criticize injustice in Iran and elsewhere.

A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport
Stewart, Kate
Call Number: 020.92 R221St

This is the biography of a woman who was a librarian. The majority of Ruth Rappaport’s career was at the Library of Congress where she was a cataloger, delving into pornography collections that had been seized by the FBI. Her early life well prepared her for what a life under a repressive regime could be like. She escaped from her birth place, Leipzig, Germany, in 1938.


Wrestling With the Devil: A Prison Memoir
Ngugi wa Thiongʼo
Call Number: 820.92 N576-3

World-renowned writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o was jailed in Kenya’s Kamiti Maximum Security Prison and recounts what it was like to write a novel while under 24-hour watch.